April 26, 2008

Around the Bases


CBI Live
Eighth-Inning Explosion Pushes No. 3 UNC Past No. 2 FSU


By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


CARY, N.C. – Blanked for seven innings, No. 3 North Carolina wasn’t fazed against second-ranked Florida State.


The Tar Heels (17-4, 37-7) rallied for 11 in the bottom of the eight, scoring 10 with two outs, in an 11-4 win over the Seminoles (18-4, 34-6) in the opener of their ACC series Friday evening in front of a season-high crowd of 3,621 at Cary’s USA Baseball National Training Complex.


Florida State leads the conference and is second in the country in batting, but was held to four hits and scored in two different innings without the benefit of a hit.


The Seminoles got on the board in the top of the fourth as Tyler Holt reached second on an error, moved to third on an error on a sacrifice bunt and came home on a sacrifice fly by Buster Posey. A double play ended the threat.


UNC starter Alex White had excellent control in the first five innings, throwing 67 pitches and 50 for strikes. But he walked the first three hitters in the sixth and Posey’s sac fly to deep right center plated the second run for FSU and ended the night for White. Jack Rye greeted reliever Brian Moran with a sacrifice fly to center to push the lead to 3-0.


The Tar Heels had base runners in six of the first seven innings, but couldn’t get that big hit to dent the scoreboard. But all that changed in the eighth. Dustin Ackley (right) was aggressive, ripping a leadoff double to left on the first offering of the inning.


“Coach didn’t say anything about taking the first pitch,” Ackley said, “so I pretty much swung at the first pitch I saw that was good and it ended up working out. I got two strikes on me and I knew I needed to put it in play. Anything can happen when you put it in play. I just tried not to strike out, let their defense get me out, and it found a hole.”


UNC head coach Mike Fox knew to let his leadoff man swing away.


“He’s at his best when he’s hitting the ball to left field,” Fox said. “We just let Dusty be Dusty. I usually don’t give him the take because he’s normally so patient up there. He doesn’t swing at too many bad pitches. He knew what was at stake. Actually I’m glad he did that rather than a walk because it did obviously got him on second base, but it did get us a little excited there.”


Ackley moved to third on a groundout and scored on a double by Tim Fedroff. Following a second groundout, Kyle Seager drew a walk to end the night for FSU reliever Ryan Strauss. Tim Federowicz hit a sharp grounder that was booted at third to load the bases and keep the inning going. Garrett Gore drove a 3-1 pitch up the middle to tie the game at 3-3.


“Right before I got to the plate, I prayed to God and he answered it,” Gore said. “At the plate, I hadn’t been swinging the bat that great. I just sat there, took a deep breath and relaxed, and he gave me a pitch to hit.”


Seth Williams was hit by a pitch and Mark Fleury drew a bases-loaded walk to give UNC its first lead at 4-3. Ackley added a two-run single and Kyle Shelton’s three-run homer gave the Heels a 9-3 advantage. A double by Fedroff, a walk to Chad Flack and a double by Seager made it 10 consecutive batters to reach base with two outs as UNC had an 11-3 advantage.


“It’s rare for our team to ever get down,” Gore said. “We really know how to battle and get fired up. I don’t think we ever got down. We know we have the bats to come back.”


Fox knew his guys would continue to battle.


“I don’t know about resiliency, but we’re going to keep playing,” Fox said. “That’s why this is such a great game. It can change on a dime and I’ve seen it happen to us both ways. The best thing about baseball is that you just have to keep playing. Anything can happen. You don’t expect something like that to happen, but it does, and it normally doesn’t happen against a team like Florida State. We were fortunate because we got a lot of that with two outs, but we’ll take it.


FSU scored the game’s final run in the ninth on a fielder’s choice by Holt.


Game 2 will take place on Saturday at 6 p.m.